Feel the Anti-café Vibes

Mathangi N. M., II Year B. A. English.

Have you ever been content just sitting at a table in a coffee shop but felt the stares of all the waiters silently urging you to leave so that the next customer could take your seat? Well, we bring you good news: you don’t have to be in that situation anymore.

Founded by two young architects, Akshaya Chittybabu and Nithya Fernandez, Backyard, is a cozy establishment tucked within the heart of Adyar and is the key to the above mentioned problem. Sitting on a comfortable seat beside the founders, with the air conditioner turned up against the heat, we begin by asking them about the concept of an “anti-café”. In the words of Nithya Fernandez, it is the reverse of a coffee shop. “In a coffee shop, you pay for a coffee and spend a certain amount of time there whereas here, you pay for the time that you spend here and get unlimited coffee.” When asked about how the idea for this venture came about, they speak about their respective research thesis on co-ideation and storytelling which, when put together, lead to the creation of Backyard.

The place has a diverse customer base, from musicians strumming their guitars to older people looking for a chat. When asked what children can do at Backyard, Akshaya replies that they mostly head straight for the blackboard tables the moment they eye the chalk. She went on to say that it wasn’t just the kids who grew excited but even adults and when they were creating something, they usually couldn’t stop. “I can show you pictures of sketches and doodles that we have seen and we don’t know who did it and they are so good that we do not want to erase it,” she adds. Stressing further on the theme of the anti-café, they speak about how two groups of strangers met at Backyard, played a game and went back to their work which is quite unlike a coffee shop experience where one isn’t too keen on speaking to the person at the neighbouring table.

When asked about the connection of the anti-café with architecture, they tell us that architecture has more to it than just drawings and buildings. While the anti-café was not structurally unique or designed from scratch, every other aspect of it, from the themed walls to the fluffy cushions, was intrinsically designed. “For us, this is Architecture. And in the small space that we have we just try to put in our concepts here and there,” says Akshaya.

While on the topic of space, the question of branching out pops up to which both of them enthusiastically respond in the positive, saying that they would definitely expand. Would they probably employ more people to manage the place? Nithya responds saying that it was a conscious decision to not employ a lot of staff. The concept of an anti-café was that one needn’t be “waited” upon. An intimacy between a waiter and a customer could never be established and that contradicted the very crux of an anti-café especially when events such as story telling happen; one could hardly stand up and speak in verse in a rigid café setting, could they?

Finally, we speak of the food at Backyard which one must note is prepared by private home bakers. Now why do they have contracts with home bakers and not more popular food outlets? They respond by saying that when they were creating a platform for different people from different fields, and thus they thought why not do it for home bakers as well as there were a rising number of them and also because they do not get the publicity that they need and deserve.

To anybody who tires of being a step away from getting kicked out of a coffee shop, remember the word ‘Backyard’ and get your feet there and meet two enthusiastic young women who would gladly welcome you into their space.

[Photograph Source: The Hindu]

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